Average temperatures in the mountainous valleys of Pakistan risen by up to 10°C
Some 5,128 glaciers located in ten river basins of Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region, are melting rapidly due to increase in average temperatures in the mountainous valleys.
“Presently, glacial melting is among major global warming-induced risk Pakistan is grappled with. Other risks include sea-level rise, floods, higher than average temperature, a higher frequency of droughts and expanding desertification,” Pakistan’s Deputy Director Ministry of Climate Change Mohammad Saleem told APP on Tuesday.
Increased or above-normal flows are occurring in glacial streams in the summer time feeding the 3,500 kilometer-long Indus River.
The mountain streams now flow even in winter, which was never observed couple of years ago as revealed by the residents particularly Hunza, Ghizer, Gupis, Skardu, Gulmit and Bagrot valleys of the Gilgit-Baltistan in the country’s north, reflecting the gravity of the global warming issue, he said.
“Temperatures in most of the mountainous valleys never used to go beyond 30 degree Celsius during summer but now it surpasses 40 degree Celsius at times.”
“This rise in temperature was causing expansion of rainy weather on one hand and squeezing the snowfall period on the other. The reduced snowfall period makes it difficult for the snow to take the shape of glaciers,” Saleem said.
Increase in frequency and intensity in rainfall instead of snowfall in these mountains triggers flash floods, which results in large-scale damages in the areas. The official, who is also spokesman of the ministry, said besides rising earth temperatures, high paced urbanization of the mountain valleys and increased vehicular traffic have accelerated the melting process of the glaciers.
Alarmingly, melting process continues in winter causing exceptional flow in streams and rivers, which in turn is causing flooding in these valleys, threatening lives and livelihoods of the locals and damaging the infrastructure, the report said.
Recent findings of 10 weather monitoring stations installed by the Pakistan Meteorological Department also concluded that glaciers in ablation zone [which refers to the low-altitude area of a glacier] is receding faster and snowline is marching upward. This means shrinking in the glacier area. “This means that the ablation zones are increasing and accumulation zones of the glaciers reducing.”
It is because at the lower elevation up to 2,500 meters the heat penetration is increasing, which is causing the glaciers shrink at such elevation levels. For instance, one weather monitoring station installed at the Hinarchi glacier in Bagrot valley of Gilgit district, has showed that the glacier has retreated 800 meters in the 32 years between 1977 and 2009. It retreated another 300 meters between 2009 and 2014.
Likewise, the Baulter glacier which had retreated 1,500 meters, shrank another 400 meters by 2014. The future of the Barpu glacier looks bleak as it has shrunk 640 meters since 1977.
“According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), there were some 2,400 potentially hazardous glacial lakes in the country’s remotest mountain valleys in 2010, a number that has now increased to over 3,000.”
A 2005 study identified 5,218 glaciers with the glacier area coverage of 15,040 km² [with 2,738 km³ of ice reserves] and 2,420 lakes including 52 “potentially dangerous” glacial lakes in Pakistan.
- In Indian Himalaya, the Tista River basin covers 285 glaciers with the glacier area of 576 km², 266 glacial lakes and 14 potentially dangerous glacial lakes.
- The Himachal Pradesh region holds 2,554 glaciers with the glacier area of 4,160 km² and 229 lakes including 22 potential GLOF.
- The Uttaranchal Himalayan region holds 1,439 glaciers with the glacier area of 4,060 km². Some 127 lakes are identified from the satellite images but none is classified as potential GLOF.
- In Tibet Autonomous Region, a total of 1,578 glaciers with a glacier area of 2,864 km², were mapped in the sub-basins of Ganges River. Some 824 lakes were identified including 77 lakes as potential GLOF.